Harris and Koylass Recruited to Lobby for Doomed Property Tax

By Stephen Kangal
May 27, 2017

Stephen KangalI read the statement issued by RC Archbishop Harris and a Guardian article penned by SC Koylass both making a misguided and ill-founded case for the collection of the Property tax outside of the the scope of the relevant legislation and quite favourable to the person who seemed to have recruited them. An exercise that is truly voluntary does not need external encouragement by the Minister of Finance bent on mobilising people to join his crusade to collectively defy the Court Order as if he is protected in Parliament.

These two persons have in fact jumped into the steel-band and dancing outa time to a tune and melody different from what the tenor pans are playing. They think it is Carnival but it is Road March against Contempt of Court by the Minister and Acting Prime Minister who ought to be setting a better example than orchestrating citizens to break the embargo placed on the first phase implementation process clearly designed to shore up his dwindling political stocks in a fast disintegrating and discredited regime that will self-destruct as the Mission Impossible Tapes/O07 were wont to do.

Let me refresh their minds on the real issues:

— We are not opposed to paying property tax because we did so until December 2009 but we are not disposed to paying this sudden unprecedented astronomical increases that may result in increases sometimes above 6,000% over what were were paying until December 2009 because inter alia, we are in dire straits as a country and citizens are losing their jobs and Government must cut its cloak according to its cloth and band its belly as we are all doing at present because it failed to introduce progressive increases on those lands subject to the Land and Building Tax Ordinance of 1948 while the Cities and Boroughs were doing their duties and progressively updating their valuation rolls;

— We stopped paying these taxes because the Property tax law (Act No 18 of 2009) was not yet in force and effect not even until today;

— The Land and Building Taxes Act and The Ch.V of the MCA were both repealed by the January 2009 Act in quite a foolish manner since they could have been operating until such time as the successor regime came into force and effect. This happened through careless drafting by the Chief Parliamentary Counsel and Patrick Manning who were quite sure that the Acts will be implemented in January 2010;

— The PP Administration gave an unnecessary tax amnesty to land-owners including all the other categories up to 2015 based on its consistent position on the onerous and unjustifiable imposition of this draconian and unprecedented tax increases even before the law was passed in Parliament and even made its opposition to this measure a part of its election platform and manifesto in September 2015;

— Mr Justice Seepersad put a hold on what Imbert referred to as the first phase of the implementation of the Acts No 17 and 18 of 2009 until June 6 and stopped all matters related to this injustice because his action and those of the Commissioner of Valuations were not founded on any legal justification but so-called self-serving advice of his team of counsels. The exercise was voluntary but had a fine attached for non-compliance as well as two deadlines of May 22 and now June 5 and used press releases to instruct the population leaving them in tax quandary, persistent uncertainty and intense stress and agony nation-wide. This is what the Judge clearly and unambiguously put on hold but the Government team is trying to obfuscate the issue and impugn the integrity of the Judge.

— These dates that is May 22 and June 5 have been drawn out his hat and one cannot find a justification in either of the two Acts 17 and 18;

— Minister Imbert defied the Court Order and is encouraging land-owners to similarly indulge in acts tantamount to contempt of the Court of Mr Seepersad and the Archbishop by his statement is guilty of being and acting as an accessory to this very serious offence;

— The Property Tax Law is stale-dated, unconstitutional, unjustifiable in a democratic society ( the proportionallity principle) and and even if valid being infringed by the Minister who has usurped the law-making/ law-amending capacity of Parliament that cannot delegate its law-creating and amending powers to a Minister even if Imbert is invoking conveniently Part VII, Section 52 (1) to Section 53 (1) and (2) that gave him powers that are unconstitutional, far too ranging and not applicable to the manipulation of the date for the VRF’s since that is in the domain of Act 17 exxclusively;

Messrs Harris and Koylass completely misunderstood the core issue surrounding the tax. The former founded his appeal to citizens on the need to pay taxes irrespective of the illegality of the method or laws being used by the Minister while the latter gave a sacrosanct status to the fact that for 100 years we have been paying taxes, forfeitures were part of the penalties system for non-payment. We must go with that flow today completely oblivious to the 1976 Constitution that elevated the right to ownership of property tax and the enjoyment thereof and not to be deprived without due process of law as a fundamental right from which no derogation will be permitted except as detailed by the said Constitution requiring a three-fifths majority and an express statement included relating to the infringement of Sections 4 and 5 of the 1976 Constitution.

If the Archbishop is playing politics he cannot fraid powder and public scrutiny because he is out of his depths and should stick to the gospels that are easier to understand and interpret.

He appears as a recruited lobbyist by the Minister of Finance making a case that is as weak as he progresses into the future as all of us who are aging positively.

As for SC Koylass recently appointed to the JLSC he appears to be paying back for this appointment by his article because I cannot see how an SC can be so constricted, narrow and per incuriam in his pronouncements because he did not address the fact that the protection of property in the 1976 Constitution is unique to T&T; that this provision will render any other competing provision/law that is inconsistent with the Constitution null and void and of no effect.

When the L&B was enacted in 1920 we did not have a Constitution but now we have and property ownership and the enjoyment thereof has the status of a jus cogens or fundamental right from which only qualified and conditional derogation is permitted in and by the legislature by way of constitutional infringing statutes. Even one hundred years of practice cannot take precedence over Constitutional statutory provisions relating to the protection of our fundamental human rights.

13 thoughts on “Harris and Koylass Recruited to Lobby for Doomed Property Tax”

  1. Stephen,it seems that you have cocoa in the sun, so you are looking out for rain. Now, tell me, can you honestly take your case to a higher court and expect to win? if judgement is based on pay as you earn or vast spread in property, you will lose, and made to pay court cost.There are a lot of laws in T&T that needs amending, the present property law as it stands , is one of them.Stephen, you should be more nationalistic and less antagonistic, you know that a clouded mind is usually one tracked, the donkey is always in front of the cart.You may be unwilling to pay the property taxes, but i bet that you are willing to pay lawyers who look like you vast sums of money to mitigate on your behalf, how sad, it seems that your standard of living is of a very high “status” so why not pay a little something,the record shows that a vast percentage of the property earning citizens of T&T are willing to pay, you should be of no exception.Hotep.

    1. I have repeated time and time again and the TMan has even quoted it that I paid house and land tax until 2009 very willingly. I will pay any tax that is legally binding.
      In the article I repeated that I am not willing and in fact opposed to paying any tax the law of which has lapsed, is illegal and inconsistent with the Constitution but which is being imposed on us by a Minister who is conducting himself as the Parliament of T&T to amend, change and misuse the law. I am a lawful man bent on obeying the law not the whims and fancies of Imbert. I am totally confident that after living with this issue for 8 years that the Courts will throw out this Act No 18 of 2009 and the PNM will not be able to get a three-fifths majority to re-introduce the law again. Punto Final. But please pay me the compliment of reading my writings with the care that I write and the time it takes to write at the very least. Compare what I wrote, you wrote and what Tman wrote below that is the opposite of what you wrote and try to insulate your position from you PNM loyalty please.

      1. If your intention in writing was to be objective, then that will be reflected in the contents to which you refer.
        Those of us who read your writing, see an obsession with the idea of the PNM proffering a property tax to bring in needed revenue as preposterous. In other words, your writing is definitely political with an added judicial flavor, rather than an objective study of the legality of the tax as proposed by the PNM.

        World over, governments and municipalities depend on the property tax to augment and as base through which they can depend to provide essential services. The Opposition Leader and those who follow her are opponents whether justified or unjustified. What we need in people who put themselves as worthy of our consideration for leadership of our country, are people who love our country unconditionally. When you seek power on the false premise that you are seeking our interest but in reality destroying it, we have to call you out with voices as loud as we can muster.

      2. Your submission is very clear and accurate. I believe the expression, Hotep: speaks volumes. How sad such expressions can reveal hidden agendas so easily.
        ‘but i bet that you are willing to pay lawyers who look like you vast sums of money to mitigate on your behalf…’
        Had the PP administration introduced amendments into Parliament for debate rather than the amnesty granted, we would not be in this quagmire. Promises made during election campaigning can certainly come back to ‘bite’ you.

        1. The UNC including the COP and the other small parties were always and consistently opposed to the Tax and voted against it in December 2009 in both Houses. In their 2010 Elections Manifesto they said that they would repeal the tax.
          How could they have introduced amendments to make it more palatable?
          Property taxes worldwide are collected by local authorities and retained to provide local services- not by Central Governments to be credited to the Exchequer.

  2. Stephen, you could not have made it any clearer.”We are not opposed to paying property tax because we did so until December 2009 but we are not disposed to paying this sudden unprecedented astronomical increases that may result in increases sometimes above 6,000%”.
    The Archbishop should restrict himself to his biblical fairytales and Koylass should beware of his political ambitions.

  3. It is astonishing to how we as citizens of this country see ourselves in this country. Just loom at the two preceding opinions by Cooper and TMan, there is a clear demarcation line as to how we view ourselves and service to country. There is one who obviously limit himself as to how much he is willing to pay homage while the other is willing to do so, knowing that in order for us to be salvageable, we must be willing to make some contributions to pay for the services we expect and enjoy. The term “unprecedented astronomical increases” has never been experienced or promoted as tax levy in this country. It is important to present formulae as a way to calculate what we may pay as taxes but in my history, I have never heard any homer owner complain that the taxes on his property is too much.

    One who constructs a home worth about $8M and expects to pay $800.00 in taxes cannot be considered fair or patriotic. On the other hand a property owner with a home worth $250,000.00 should be worried if he gets a bill for $8,000. Since the recalcitrants of the property tax is yet to allow the government to produce a homeowner tax bill, it yet to be realized that the tax is “sudden unprecedented astronomical” as an increase. So with this in mind, why don’t the recalcitrants allow the bills to be calculated? Let us quarrel with the bills we receive from the government and not prognosticate the ones we think we will receive.

    1. But the formula for calculating the property tax is clearly and unambiguously stated and any fool can do his own calculation and arrive at his potential tax.That is why the PNM lost the 2010 elections on their own admission. Tax must be founded on law. The Judge said that the current process is based on press releases, interviews and inconsistent with any legal foundation. We cannot wait any fait accompli tax. We must insist on the laws being amended and updated and then implemented. No taxation without representation from the tax-payers> This is a law-regulated society- not a dictatorship.

  4. In Acts No 17 and 18 the basis for calculating the tax is the
    commercial prevailing rental value of the property or lands unoccupied less 10% and not the capital value of $250,000 or $8m as you said. If we are to debate let us get the law or formula right

  5. Wise taxpayers stay vigilant and make the governments accountable, especially when entitled services are scarce and unreliable.
    Only foolish consumers and recipients of services blindly trust providers/governments who are known to be inefficient, incompetent and unable to provide the goods and services for which they take your hard earned money.
    One can be a solid patriot without being stupid. Challenging government to be frugal, accountable and efficient in not unpatriotic but wise.

  6. State Blocked From Receiving & Issuing Valuation Return Forms Until June 27th
    The Opposition has succeeded in their attempt at halting the Property Tax implementation process.
    On Wednesday, Justice Frank Seepersad granted an interim injunction against the Commissioner of Valuations which blocks the State from receiving or issuing Valuation Return forms until June 27th.

    Public barred from filing property tax VRF until June 27
    …Justice Seepersad grants interim injunction

    1. Colm Imbert unwittingly branded the application for Judicial Review as a UNC Application. This is totally untrue but designed by him to give the issue a politically partisan stamp .The aggrieved person is Devant Maharaj while the lawyers are private citizens. This is entirely a legal matter to be resolved by the Courts and has been pending since December 2009 when the matter was introduced into the House and the Senate and was found to be consistent with Sections 4 and 5 of the 1976 Constitution.
      I have always held the view that Imbert’s attempts to encourage the submission of forms post- judgement on his so-called voluntary basis was in contempt of the Judgement of Mr Justice Seepersad and illegal as well. I hope that he will now know how to conduct himself as a very Senior State Official and not set a bad example for the young people and contribute to lawlessness as a legislator and Senior Minister.

  7. There is absolutely nothing racial about the debate surrounding this issue. The objection to massive increases in the property tax structure and the recent court decisions are based on sound, rational and objective reasoning.
    The court rulings have expiry dates, allowing the government to conduct its business in a legal, parliamentary and proper manner in the process of introducing the law.
    The fears of the objectors and the grounds of their objections are being misunderstood.
    The objection is primarily based on the size of the increase being proposed by the government and not on the concept of paying property tax which every property owner is used to.
    Another concern is the disparity of ownership in a basically underdeveloped country which has proven that it is unable to provide the services which it wants to charge for.
    Yet another legitimate concern is that in “UNC” constituencies which are traditionally neglected by PNM governments, substantial property tax collected will be funnelled to other parts of the country. In developed countries property tax collected in specific municipalities are reinvested in those same municipalities. Taxpayers also have direct input in how their tax dollars are used, a process which creates pride in one’s community.

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